Coding artwork: Engineering faculty member creates visual designs using math modeling software

P. Venkataraman develops unique and colorful illustrations of math problems solved

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Mechanical engineering professor P. Venkataraman uses MATLAB’s mathematical modeling function to create colorful and curving artwork.

MATLAB—a math modeling software—is used to design sophisticated structures. Engineering professor Panchapakesan Venkataram found an equally creative use for the popular software: designing intricate and elaborate artwork. He’ll showcase this work for the first time at the Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival.

Participants to his interactive exhibit “Wow your curve: Spin it into visual design,” in the Gordon Field House, can create their own colorful illustrations using Bezier curves.

MATLAB is a software platform used to solve engineering and scientific problems through computational mathematics. It is capable of 2D and 3D graphical plotting functions. Originally developed by Pierre Bezier in 1968, his curve is one means of illustrating aerodynamic systems such as airplane wings, vehicles and wind turbines, for example, before they are manufactured.

“I have been working with Bezier curves and surfaces for more than 15 years to solve problems in data fitting, airfoil design, linear and nonlinear boundary value problems,” said Venkataraman, an associate professor of mechanical engineering in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering. “About four years ago, I started to see if I can create designs by programming with these curves. I started with a little curiosity and now I am always trying to expand what I can create with them.”

An expert in flight-design structures and computational fluid dynamics, and with a background in the aeronautics field, Venkataraman began experimenting with different ways of using the software and found an artistic outlet as well as a means to show that science, engineering and mathematics can be creative and fun. His colorful, elegant images of birds, flowers and digital designs have an avant-garde quality, and a few are “images” of mathematical problems solved.

“I am able to solve coupled linear or nonlinear, ordinary or partial, forward or inverse boundary value problems. But I also want to show that math and coding can be fun, and to display that simple coding can be useful for stress relief.”

A gallery of images by P. Venkataraman can be found at: